Referral Programs That Drive Conversions and Increase Loyalty

bank referral programs

Referral programs leverage the power of personal recommendations, empowering satisfied customers to become brand advocates

Businesses can tap into a trusted network of potential customers by rewarding existing customers to refer friends, family, or associates. In conversion-focused marketing, referral programs emerge as formidable tools, capitalizing on the authenticity and influence of word-of-mouth marketing. This approach amplifies customer acquisition and enhances brand credibility, creating a symbiotic relationship between customer satisfaction and business growth. 

For banking, retail, and e-commerce, referrals are a potent catalyst for organic growth and customer acquisition that transcends industry boundaries.

3 Financial Services Driving Customer Acquisition With Referral Programs. 

Thanks to the convenience of online banking, individuals now have easy access to various financial institutions to find the one that best suits their needs. Despite this accessibility, people often maintain long-term relationships with their current banks, leading to fierce competition for those considering a switch. 

The average lifespan of a checking account is about 17 years – and this institutional loyalty remains true across generations of consumers, including Gen Z.

One powerful way banks can entice new customers to swap financial providers is to launch a rock-solid referral program. Referrals work because they tap into that word-of-mouth power, letting existing customers share their loyalty to your company with their friends and family.

#1: Discover 

Discover is a global financial services company offering reward credit cards and online banking.


Its refer-a-friend program allows account holders to earn statement credits for each friend’s new account.

Both parties earn a $50 to $100 statement credit for each new account opened. For existing customers, the credit applies during the next billing cycle. For new customers, the credit applies after three months.

Why it works: Discover has an excellent reputation as one of the best banks in the game, thanks to its outstanding customer service. Plus, both parties get something substantial out of a referral.

The referral program landing page is also clear and informative. It offers easy-to-follow guidelines for the referral program, telling existing customers how the referral program works, and features testimonials from happy customers to reassure people that Discover provides a great experience.


HSBC is a global financial services holding company headquartered in London.


Existing customers with an HSBC Premier checking account can earn big by introducing friends and family to HSBC. An existing customer earns $300 for each qualifying referral, up to $6,000 per calendar year – the highest reward offering on our list! Plus, their referred friend earns a one-time bonus of up to $1,000.

Why it works: The caveat to HSBC’s refer-a-friend program is that the referred customer must open an HSBC Premier checking account – no other account type qualifies. A Premier checking account has a $50 monthly fee unless you meet certain criteria. Still, you get unique perks not seen in typical checking accounts, like global transfers and access to a relationship manager.

#3 Chase

Chase Bank is a national bank headquartered in New York City.


Chase offers multiple referral programs for its different credit cards, savings, and personal checking accounts, but most of its programs are points-based.

Why it works: Many banks offer customers a points-based system for using their credit cards instead of cash bonuses. 

Credit card point systems work by tapping into our brains’ psychological need for rewards. When someone is presented with a major figure, like 15,000 points, they automatically think they’re getting more of something. That’s why, instead of saying, “Refer a friend to get $160.50,” Chase says, “Get 15,000 bonus points for each friend who gets approved.”

What makes Chase stand out is the additional boost you get with one of its various rewards-based cards. Several of these cards offer specialty points that can be redeemed with major brands like Amazon, Marriott, Southwest, and Disney, to name a few. Each card has its referral program, too, with some cards offering a statement credit and others offering points.

At a Glance: Financial Services With Successful Refer-A-Friend Programs

Broadway Bank

You give $50 and get $50 – up to $500 per year. If you refer a friend who’s an existing customer and they open a checking account, you both receive $50.

UMB Bank 

When a referred person opens a checking account, the original customer receives $200, and the person they referred receives $150.

Charles Schwab

When a referred friend or family member of an existing customer opens a Charles Schwab account and deposits money into it, the referred person can get up to $1,000.

SkyOne Federal Credit Union 

When a new customer uses a referral link to open a new account, they earn a $25 Amazon gift card. If their account remains in good standing after 30 days, the referring customer also earns a $25 Amazon gift card – up to $500 per calendar year.


Customers earn $50 for each friend who opens a new bank account with direct deposit. Once the direct deposit is successful, that friend also receives $50. The referring customer can make up to $1,500 per calendar year.


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2 Digital Retailers Leveraging Referral Programs and Boosting Loyalty

The rise of online shopping has reshaped consumer behavior. Discerning customers have to sort through an overwhelming amount of online offers, discounts, and promotions, reinforcing the importance of building lasting connections in the digital marketplace.


Businesses can stand out with a referral program that effectively utilizes word-of-mouth marketing. Satisfied customers share positive experiences with friends and family, which can build your customer base and boost customer loyalty.

#1 Madison Reed

Madison Reed is a haircare company that provides color treatment products, hair accessories, styling tools, and more.

The company’s refer a friend program gives customers a $15 credit for every referral who signs up, and referrals get a $15 discount off their first purchase.

Source: Madison Reed

Why it works: First, the customer and the person referred receive rewards. Additionally, Madison Reed uses language that grabs attention and suggests exclusivity, for example, phrases like, “Share the secret of hair color … with your friends and family,” to create a sense of intrigue. 

For referrals, this type of language influences the perceived value of a product and helps to convert more people.

#2 Casper

Casper, an online mattress company, has a traditional referral program, but, at times, the company also offers bonuses.

For example, offering customers a $75 Amazon gift card as part of an end-of-season referral program. Customers have a personalized referral link they can send to their friends and family, and if a friend or family member buys their first Casper mattress with that link, the customer wins the gift card. And the referred customer gets 20% off their order.

Source: Casper

Why it works: Occasionally switching up your referral offers keeps your customers guessing, and limiting the time these special referral campaigns are available creates a sense of urgency. Your customers won’t want to miss out on a great deal, and they’ll want to check your website periodically to see if any offers are available, increasing overall engagement with your brand.

Use Case: Bestseller Uses Extole To Scale and Maximize Reach

Bestseller is a family-owned clothing and accessories company founded in Denmark in 1975. Bestseller partnered with Extole, a customer-led growth platform, to leverage referral programs targeting consumers in America and Canada.

Problem: Bestseller identified a challenge of limited awareness of their popular European brands in North America, particularly in the U.S. and Canada. Therefore, recognizing the need for accelerated new customer acquisition and re-engagement of existing customers.

Solution: Bestseller employed Extole’s unique on-site launch service to ensure rapid and effective program implementation. It launched four referral programs targeting two brands in the U.S. and Canada, strategically aligning with the identified markets.

Bestseller also implemented a dedicated email promotion during the holidays, leveraging the season for increased visibility and customer engagement. 

Results and Impact:

  • Thirty-five thousand visits were generated from advocate recommendations.
  • Successfully turned 31% of North American customers into advocates, showcasing the program’s effectiveness in building brand ambassadors.
  • Witnessed a remarkable 16x increase in sharing with the holiday email campaign, demonstrating the program’s impact on customer engagement during key promotional periods.
  • Implemented 10 concurrent referral programs, showcasing scalability and the ability to maximize reach across various initiatives.

You can read Bestseller’s success story and others, here.


With Extole, Bestseller successfully leveraged referral programs to address specific challenges and capitalize on growth opportunities in North America.

Grow Customer Acquisitions and Boost Loyalty with Extole

The best referral programs are managed with a customer-led growth marketing tool like Extole.

With Extole, you can leverage first-party data to gain deep insights into the people who already interact with your brand. Once you set up the platform, many of your day-to-day responsibilities are automated, like tracking referrals and managing payouts, freeing up time so you can focus on growing your business. 

Extole’s streamlined approach empowers companies to harness the potential of referral programs and efficiently manage and optimize their strategies for sustained growth.

Discover how our solution works with Use Cases across industries:

Or, see Extole in action for yourself by requesting a demo!

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